Monday, November 18, 2013

The Indian absence from CHOGM – cause and effect

The Indian Minister of External Affairs, Salman Khurshid, said he was disappointed that his PM, Manmohan Singh could not come and be the first HOG to visit Jaffna, and that privilege was seized by David Cameron the Prime Minister of Britain! In retrospect it would have made more sense if Manmohan was able to go there as he would be able to show the people of Tamil Nadu that India has helped the region immensely with both building 50,000 homes and the reconstruction of the Northern Railway Line. He could have even won a concession from MR!

I believe that would have placated the Tamil Nadu population, and now I believe the last laugh is with Cameron, and the Tamil Nadu politicians will realize they made a big mistake. In fact going to Colombo and making statements in support of Tamils, would have been more effective than boycotting, as David Cameron so adroitly showed. Sri Lanka were in sixes and sevens not knowing what had hit them with this character baying for blood on a fleeting visit from London!

India by this diplomatic debacle has opened the doors further to China to take over all major infrastructure projects in the Island. It is going to be very difficult to claw this back in future.

In reality India SHOULD be Sri Lanka’s best friend. Why ever not? We have so much culturally and economically in common, and so much more to exploit owing to India’s size and also the huge potential market for our goods.

Sri Lanka has not, but should take advantage of location and ease of entry via different ports, to manufacture goods in sufficient quantity by value additions of imports and export the finished products to Indian markets. With Sri Lanka better in the bribery net and with less transport bottlenecks, CAN produce a range of goods for Indian Consumers at competitive rates. This requires a scale not previously envisaged.

I think the best strategy would be for Dr Singh to go only to Jaffna, thereby both smoothening the tensions of the South, but also to be able to report positive changes there. The opening of a railway line may be the catalyst needed, and so when the train station to Jaffna is ready, it may be the right time to come to open it.

Sri Lanka on the other hand MUST skillfully manage both Chinese and Indian efforts at dominating the economy and try and get them to grant credit at favorable interest rates, instead of the exorbitant ones at present, pitting one against the other.                      

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